HP finished in a solid fourth place in our report — the same position it earned in 2013. The brand fared well in the innovation category (thanks to welcome experimentation with motion control, touchpad design and hybrids), and we also continue to like HP’s design, keyboard comfort, and overall value and selection. Tech support could be better — especially on the phone — but overall, this is a brand you can trust.
HP turned in a slightly better performance than it did last year, with five of its notebooks earning a 4-star rating, five getting a 3.5-star rating and three receiving a 3-star rating. The high-end Spectre 13t — which has an innovative touchpad — and the bang-for-your-buck Pavilion G6z were two systems that received Editors’ Choice awards.
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HP has a well-designed website that makes it easy to find answers to common questions, and the company has been improving its social media tech support, though it still doesn’t offer live chat. However, these improvements barely managed to offset HP’s disastrous phone-support score. We were transferred between multiple representatives each time, who all had difficulty with our fairly basic questions. One rep tried to sell us an unnecessary HP support package.
HP deserves praise for creating the best-looking Chromebooks of the year. The Pavilion 14 Chromebook used glittery plastic to lend the notebook an air of sophistication at a low price, and the Chromebook 11 added a pop of color to a gleaming white chassis. The HP Spectre 13t impressed with its stylish, truffle-brown exterior and Control Zone touchpad. However, a couple of less-imaginative MacBook clones, such as the Envy TouchSmart 15, relegated HP to fourth place. The company also needs to find a way to trim the fat; the Elitebook 2750p lives on the bulkier end of the spectrum.
Hewlett Packard offers consistently comfy, flex-free keyboards on both its business and consumer laptops. The company’s touchpads provided accurate, jitter-free navigation on all of the systems we tested. HP’s Elitebook line of business laptops even offer dedicated mouse buttons, which provide the best clicking experience. However, the Elitebook pointing sticks are uncomfortable because of their concave surfaces.
From consumer Ultrabooks like the HP Spectre 13 to the business-focused ZBook 15, HP has upped its audio-visual game. As a result, the company boosted its score by two points to tie for first in this category. While most of HP’s panels delivered rich color and wide viewing angles, the average brightness of 219 lux recorded on the systems we tested is well below the 242-lux laptop category average.
Sound consistently impressed across the board. Even budget models, such as the sub-$500 Pavilion G6z-2200, have front-mounted speakers capable of blaring full-bodied tunes. On average, the HP notebooks we reviewed in 2013 pumped out sound at 84 decibels, which is just slightly below the laptop category average (85 dB). HP also includes Beats Audio on several of its laptops, which enriches bass and overall sound.
After a lackluster showing in last year’s Innovation category, HP jumped all the way to the No. 2 spot. The boost came as a result of groundbreaking notebooks like the Envy 17, which includes a built-in 3D controller, courtesy of Leap Motion. The company also rolled out its slick Spectre 13 Ultrabook, which features a unique Control Zone touchpad that makes Windows 8 gestures more intuitive.
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There is a wide selection of HP laptops on the company’s website, and a large range of retailers also sell HP systems. Thanks to a wide variety of price points — from the $479 Pavilion 14z TouchSmart to the $954 Elitebook 850 G1 business notebook — HP earned a second-place spot in this category. The company also offers a Windows 7 option on most of its notebooks, so you can get an up-to-date device with the comfort of a familiar operating system. A colorful line of Chromebooks expands the budget end of HP’s already-wide range of products.
HP’s software suite isn’t quite as impressive as it was last year. Recent HP flagships, like the Envy TouchSmart 15, pack HP Connected Photo and Connected Music, which allow you to easily organize your multimedia content. The HP Savings Center is an online coupon book, and there’s an unnecessary HP Games hub for sampling already-free games like “Plants vs. Zombies.” HP’s SimplePass software offers extra security with a fingerprint reader, and you can register all 10 of your fingers for logging in to Windows and websites.